Book Madness 2015 (Sonya): Better Late Than Never!

BookMadness

Now, first of all I totally made my picks early yesterday morning before voting began! However, for some reason both Nox and I could not get the PDF version of the bracket to take any text, so alas I had to print it, fill it out, and then scan it. Obviously, this is way too much work in our days of modern technology. Regardless, here is my finished bracket with The Great Gatsby as my winner. There are other books on here I enjoyed more than The Great Gatsby, but I think it’s a masterpiece that deserves to win.

Book Madness 2015 : Brackets for everyone!

OoP_BookMadnessTemplate_8.5x11

Ok, now I am surprised by my winner…mostly because I haven’t even read it. I want to though, if that counts for anything…no? I didn’t think so. I hadn’t read a pretty high number of these. I was getting pretty frustrated at some of these pairs though.

I mean, who compares Madeline and The Bell Jar? In what world do those belong together? Why is Goodnight Moon even on the list? Ick. Corduroy vs Animal Farm? Is it because they are both animals? Watership down is about rabbits, at least those two together would make sense. Lolita vs Charlotte’s Web made me laugh out loud, then shudder a little. No. My final four was super interesting though.

The Bell Jar vs Jane Eyre: Two books I haven’t read, but still. Wuthering Heights vs American Gods. Final two: The Bell Jar vs American Gods. AND THE WINNER!!?!?! The Bell Jar.

I’m not sure how I voted out The Outsiders so quickly, upon rebooking at my bracket I regretted that choice, but once it’s down there is no changing it and I think that’s a good thing. Apparently, subconsciously I don’t think it should win, so who can argue with that? It was really difficult to choose between American Gods and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but c’mon, it’s Neil Gaiman.

My bracket was pretty different from Nox’s and Madeline’s, but surprisingly Nox and I picked the same winner! That must mean something, right?

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens once the voting starts, but I imagine it will go the way of my other brackets and I will disagree with most of the choices.

Book Madness Villanova completely screwed up my chances at winning my NCAA office pool this year, so books! I took part in Out of Print Clothing’s bracket last year, which was definitely more fun because you got to pit literary characters against each other! Having this year’s theme of classics was made extra difficult by matching children’s books with great literary works. I wish they would have done the seeding a little differently, especially since there were some regions that were hella-strong and other instances where both contenders would be easily knocked-out by someone who only made it to round one in their match up. For example, Harold and the Purple Crayon only made it to round three because of my utter hatred of all things Vonnegut where as The Great Gatsby and Huck Finn could both have beaten a ton of others if they hadn’t been up against each other so early. Such is life, I suppose. By the by, I own two book cover t-shirts from Out of Print and guess who was paired up?

The favorite of my potential match-ups are:

  • Where the Wild Things Are vs. Lord of the Flies aka “The Isle of Craziness”
  • The Catcher in the Rye vs. Hamlet – the battle of the mopey teens

In the final four I have Jane Eyre vs. The Bell Jar and The Outsiders vs. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with The Bell Jar and The Outsiders advancing to the finals. The Outsiders is great (Stay gold, Ponyboy!), but The Bell Jar is one of my favorite books of all time, so I had to choose it as the winner.

Madeleine’s bracket is way different than mine (her champion was knocked out in my first round) so it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the voting goes. May the madness begin!

*Let it be known that I have not read a surprising number of these books. Maybe next year’s reading challenge?

Book Madness 2015 (Madeleine)

Madeleine's completed bracket for Out of Print Book Madness

I participated in Out of Print’s Book Madness last year, and it was a lot of fun. I actually got the final two and champion right. Last year, the theme was heroes vs. villains, which was a bit more fun to imagine than this year’s theme of classics (Atticus vs. Voldemort, anyone?). But, here are my predictions for this year.

In the final four I have Jane Eyre vs. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and To Kill a Mockingbird vs. 1984, with Jane Eyre and 1984 advancing to the finals. It was a hard choice, but in the end I chose 1984 as the winner.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

book cover of As Chimney Sweepers Come to DustAuthor: Alan Bradley
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Mystery
Length: 392 pages

There isn’t a good way to discuss this book without spoiling the previous. If you haven’t read The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, you may not want to read on.

Yaroo, a new Flavia book! I dearly love Flavia de Luce. I read this series to see what sorts of shenanigans Flavia gets into and how she works her way out of them, not because I’m really engaged the mystery. Given the end of the last book, I was nervous about The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. What would a Flavia story be like without her father, her sisters, and Dogger? Without Buckshaw?

On many counts, Flavia works really well in a different environment (her dramatic insistence that she has been “Banished!” for example or her plotting out how she would poison her chaperone). She’s still getting in and out of trouble, being clever and wonderful, doing chemistry, and making me laugh aloud. The boarding school setting and strange Nide, secret society intrigue were also interesting if a bit over the top.

Bradley spends a lot of time building the world of Miss Bodycoate’s. There is a dizzying cast of girls with as many names and nicknames as a Tolstoy novel. Even by the end, they all seemed very similar. I had trouble keeping them apart.

My biggest struggle, however, was with the end of the book, which seemed to negate the entire point of the book.

3 stars to As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust because it’s Flavia and I still enjoy reading about her quite a bit, but this was definitely a weaker entry in the series.

I received an advanced copy of As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Releases I Meant to Read But Didn’t Get To

Top Ten Tuesday

I’m trying something new this week and participating in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, book bloggers put together their Top Ten list around a common theme. This week is “Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant to Read But Didn’t Get To.” I initially thought this was going to be a hard one to think of ten, until I perused my GoodReads to-read list and was reminded of all the great books I haven’t had a chance to read yet.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks definitely belongs at the top of this list, because I tried really hard to read it. I’ve gone through three or four rounds on the library hold list and missed picking it up or had it come in during a particularly busy time. I loved Cloud Atlas, so I can’t wait to actually read this one.

Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah

Wolves. A missing sister. Snow. Tragic pasts. Hallucinations. Count me in for this YA book.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Two girls on opposite sides of the Civil Rights Movement are forced to work together on a class project. I’ve had my eye on this one ever since Zelda reviewed it.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Aliens land in Lagos, Nigeria, and three people must race to save their country. The blurb on GoodReads promises me the story includes “everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.” I haven’t read this one yet, because it hasn’t been published in the US. I did recently get a copy through interlibrary loan, though!

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean

The Violinist’s Thumb was one my favorite non-fiction reads. The same author (Sam Kean) is back with this popular science book about neuroscience.

Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen

Siblings grow up separated, until the older brother brings his sister home to try to reconnect. Set in the Minnesota wilderness.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

A book by Amy Poehler? Yes, please!

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Whenever Harry August dies, he is reborn into the same life with his memories intact. He eventually finds the Cronus Club, a group of people who also die and are reborn. They have rules (no changing history, etc.), but then someone begins to mess with time and history.

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott

A young girl, Ava, has the ability to heal people. When this is discovered, people begin flocking to Ava for healing. But the ability comes at a cost to her own health…

How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer

Astronomy. Religion. Cosmology. Fate. This one got a bit of buzz earlier this year, and then seemed to vanish. Besides the concept and catchy title, I also really love cover on this one.

What about you? What new books from 2014 are still on your to-read list?

Two 2014 Favorites

I’m sneaking one last review on here before 2015 begins. I realized last night that I had yet to review two of my favorite books that I read this year (quite possibly my top two favorite books).

All the Light We Cannot See

Cover of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrAuthor: Anthony Doerr
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 531 pages

Towards the end of World War II, the seaside city of Saint-Malo, France is bombed by the Allies. Werner, a young German soldier with a innate understanding of electronics is trapped underneath the rubble with a radio. Across the city, a blind girl, Marie Laure, finds herself alone in her uncle’s home, hiding from a Nazi treasure hunter obsessed with a precious jewel in her possession, with a radio transmitter and her braille copy of Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

There are so many beautiful details in this book, particularly surrounding the story of Marie Laure and her father. Her father, the master of locks at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, builts miniature replicas of their neighborhood to help Marie Laure learn how to navigate on her own. Werner’s life is more difficult, but he remains inspired by a strange radio broadcast he heard with his sister as a child.

Besides the details, the writing is very beautiful. The prose can be a bit dense at times, however Doerr counters this with very short chapters with give the book some breathing room. I really wish I would have had time to read this one more slowly. Since I was reading it for class I had to clip through it at a very fast pace. I’m planning on a reread once it’s published in paperback (June 2016).

Station Eleven

cover of Station Eleven by Emily St. John MandelAuthor: Emily St. John Mandel
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Literary Fiction/Science Fiction (very light)
Length: 333 pages

I’m going to use a word here to describe Station Eleven, but I don’t want you to let it turn you off the book. Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic (but not dystopian) novel set in the near future after the Georgian Flu wipes out most of the Earth’s population as well as crippling most technologies. Small communities have formed, often near wherever a group of people happened to be at the time the flu hit.

However, this isn’t a particularly science fiction-y book. The story is not centered on survival or plot or what happens next. Rather, the story moves back and forth in time (pre- and post-flu) weaving together multiple characters, but focused on the Traveling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who travel across North America performing, because “survival is insufficient.” Station Eleven examines art, humanity, memory, and those things that may survive us: the smart phone in the Museum of Civilization, an obscure sci-fi graphic novel, a Star Trek quote, Shakespeare’s plays.

The title of the book comes from the title of a graphic novel one of the characters creates over many years about a failing, partially flooded space station now consisting of interconnected islands led by Dr. Eleven and the group of people hiding in the Undersea who only want to return to a ruined, alien-dominated Earth. I wanted this graphic novel to be real. I really wanted this graphic novel to be real. Sadly, it is not, although the cover designer, Nathan Burton, did illustrate a few pages.

And like All the Light We Cannot See, the writing in Station Eleven was absolutely beautiful to read.